August 19, 2022

Witness Stones Old Lyme Installs 16 Additional Plaques Marking Enslavement Sites; Installation Ceremony with Readings, Music to be Held THIS MORNING, 10am, All Welcome

Frederick Douglass Knowles II, pictured above, will read his poem Shoots of Plants Blooming in Spring at today’s Witness Stones Old Lyme Installation Ceremony.

‘Witness Stones Old Lyme Installation Ceremony’ to be held today, all welcome to this free event

OLD LYME – The Old Lyme Witness Stones Project is installing 16 new Witness Stones—historical plaques commemorating the lives of enslaved and indentured African Americans and Native Americans, who labored in the historic town of Lyme. The plaques will be placed on Lyme St. and McCurdy Rd. in Old Lyme.

In Spring 2021, the Old Lyme Witness Stones Project installed 14 plaques.

The Witness Stone for Pompey Freeman.

To deepen this untold story, Witness Stones have been added this year to honor Phyllis, Tantiphant, Katherine Freeman, Salem Freeman, Basil, Margaret Crosley Lewia, Prince Freeman, Temperance Freeman, Harry Freeman, Samuel, Jack, Jube, Grace, Warwick, and Mingo.

To celebrate the town’s newly installed Witness Stones, the Old Lyme Witness Stones Partnership will hold a series of events in June. 

Today, Friday, June 3, at 10 a.m., the Old Lyme Phoebe Griffin Noyes (PGN) Library will host a Witness Stones Old Lyme Installation Ceremony: A Celebration of Music and Poetry.

The community is invited to gather on the lawn of the Old Lyme PGN Library to celebrate the second installation of Witness Stones on Lyme Street, extending this year to McCurdy Rd. This is a free event and will take place rain or shine.

The program will include music, poetry, and words from community partners and guest speakers.

Frederick-Douglass Knowles II will read his poem Shoots of Plants Blooming in Spring at the ceremony. He joins guest speakers Dain Perry and Constance Perry.

World-renowned soprano Lisa Williamson and acclaimed saxophonist and U.S. Coast Guard Band conductor Richard Wyman will provide music.

Twelve members of the Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School (LOLMS) chorus, led by Laura Ventres, will also contribute to the program. 

Seventh-grade students from the LOLMS will read biographical poems, which they wrote to tell the life stories of Harry Freeman and Margaret Crosley Lewia. Using primary documents, the students researched these two enslaved town residents, making the story of local slavery tangible, personal, and relevant to their own lives.

From left to right in the front row at left of photo, soprano Lisa Williamson, poets Marilyn Nelson, Rhonda Ward, and Antoinette Brim-Bell sit together at the previous Installation Ceremony for Witness Stones Old Lyme.

Frederick-Douglass Knowles II is an Educator and Activist fervent in achieving community augmentation through literary arts. He is a Professor of English at Three Rivers Community College in his native city of Norwich, CT and the inaugural Poet Laureate of Hartford.

He is the recipient of the Nutmeg Poetry Award and the Connecticut of The Arts Fellow in Artist Excellence for Poetry/Creative Non-Fiction. Knowles is a Pushcart Prize nominee and the author of BlackRoseCity.

Constance R. Perry is a national consultant working in economically disadvantaged communities and specializing in workforce and community development. For more than 20 years, she managed, designed, and implemented programs for at-risk youth and adults at the municipal, state, and national level.

Born and raised in Boston, she is a descendant of enslaved laborers in North Carolina.

Dain Perry had a 30-year career as a Financial Representative with the Northwestern Mutual Financial Network NMFN) in Boston. He is a past President of the Boston Estate Planning Council and was named Boston Estate Planner of the Year in 1999.

Prior to joining NMFN he was deputy director of the Massachusetts Council on Crime and Correction, and Acting Director of the Crime and Justice Foundation, both private non-profit community groups which promoted reform in the criminal justice system. He attended the U S Naval Academy.

The Old Lyme PGN Library is located at 2 Library Lane, Old Lyme.

A Witness Stone has been installed at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme.

On Saturday, June 18, at 2 p.m., the Florence Griswold Museum will host a Juneteenth Celebration of Jazz & Poetry. The Museum is located at ,96 Lyme St. in Old Lyme, Conn.

In 2021, the Old Lyme Witness Stones Project partnered with four distinguished Connecticut poets, Marilyn Nelson, Kate Rushin, Rhonda Ward, and Antoinette Brim-Bell, who created a tribute in verse to those remembered with Lyme Street plaques.

The verse cycle, which brings vividly to life experiences, attitudes, and emotions long ignored and then forgotten, appeared in the prestigious Poetry magazine in November 2021. 

In honor or Juneteenth—a federal holiday that commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans—this celebration will feature music by the Nat Reeves Jazz Quartet and readings by the Witness Stones Poets on the grounds of the Florence Griswold Museum, a former site of enslavement.

The event has received generous support from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, Office of the Arts, which also receives support from the federal ARPA.

The Witness Stones Project expands the understanding of local history and honors the humanity and contributions of those formerly held in bondage. The initiative was made possible through the support of the Lyme-Old Lyme community, including local institutions, and Lyme-Old Lyme Schools. 

The Witness Stones Project in Old Lyme is vital at this time of learning about and engagement with the history of slavery in Connecticut. The project also has national reach, however, as America comes to grips with its complicated past regarding the enslavement of African peoples. 

Each Witness Stone placed between the Sill Lane green and the Duck River Cemetery gates includes the name of an enslaved individual, along with important details about their lives and circumstances derived from land records, emancipation certificates and other available historical documents.

An interpretive sign installed on the lawn of the Old Lyme PGN Library provides a map showing the locations of these small, brass plaques, embedded flush with the ground. Witness Stones along Lyme Street have been placed primarily along the west side of the street for pedestrian safety. 

The Old Lyme Witness Stones Partnership’s goal is to expand the understanding of local history and honor the humanity and the contributions of those formerly enslaved in the community. 

The partnership’s founding members include the Old Lyme PGN Library, the Florence Griswold Museum, Lyme-Old Lyme Schools, and the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme.

Community partners include the Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center, St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau, and the Old Lyme Historical Society.

For more information, visit the Witness Stones Old Lyme website.